It was our 5th day on the Camino and we were hoping to make it to the town of Pereje, approx. 30 km from Ponferrada. But sometimes the Camino has other plans for you. We wouldn’t make it that far. Instead, we stopped earlier in a town called Villafranca del Bierzo.
We started the day early, following the yellow arrows past the historic city centre through to the suburbs. The first 5 km of the walk was an uninspiring stroll through the concrete sidewalks of Ponferrada. It seemed to take ages to finally leave the city and reach the small town of Columbrianos. We stopped by the church to prepare sandwiches with the groceries we had picked up in Ponferrada.
The rest of the day is pretty hazy to me. I remember stopping by the small parish church of Santa Maria in Fuentas Nuevas. It had an impressively ornate altar and there was a lady outside offering stamps for pilgrim’s passports. We received our stamps and walked on passing many vineyards.
The path was fairly flat until we approached Cacabelos. From here, the path steadily climbed uphill. There was no breeze and the sun’s heat was relentless on the open road. Desperate for a break, we parked ourselves at a bench outside Valtuille de Abajo, approximately 5 km from Villafranca del Bierzo. The heat was suffocating and once again we questioned our decision to take on the Camino challenge. We met another pilgrim there contemplating the same thing. Misery really does love company.
Somehow we found ourselves back on the road. After several dramatic shows of throwing my bag on the ground and refusing to walk any further, we finally made it to the municipal albergue in Villafranca Del Bierzo. The hiking poles that we had left behind in Foncebadon were supposed to be delivered here. It wasn’t. I think that was the final straw for that day. We would not be walking any further.
We stumbled down to the main square, Plaza Mayor. We booked the first hotel we saw, Hotel San Fransico. It wasn’t the nicest place but it would have to do. There was much talk about quitting that day. I just wanted to take the bus to Granada. I love Granada.
After a shower and a nap, we headed to Plaza Mayor for dinner, and it rained like it was the tropics. Then the lights flickered and it started to hail. It was quite a show. Everyone at the bar stopped what they were doing to watch the hail rain down. I guess it was a good thing that we stopped for the day.
This was not my favourite hotel, simply because I didn’t find it to be as clean as our previous accommodations. The bathroom had a musty smell, and for a lack of better words, made me feel… icky. We spoke to another pilgrim and they said they would recommend Albergue de la Piedra. It’s set just at the end of town and cost 10 euros for a bed.